Lester B. Pearson School Board ordered to pay nearly $30K to parent of bullied student

·3 min read
A Quebec judge said the Lester B. Pearson School Board failed to do what was needed to protect a student from bullying.  (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)
A Quebec judge said the Lester B. Pearson School Board failed to do what was needed to protect a student from bullying. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)

The Lester B. Pearson School Board in Montreal has been ordered to pay a family nearly $30,000 for failing to apply its own anti-bullying policy and not doing enough to protect a student who had been "severely humiliated and intimidated in front of her peers."

The victim — whose identity is protected because she is a minor — was constantly targeted by a group of students during the fall of 2017, according to a decision rendered June 30.

She was 13 at the time and had often been targeted by a group of friends at school. The school where the incidents took place is also not named in the court ruling.

The intimidation took place "at school, inside and outside the building," Quebec court Judge Louis Riverin wrote in his decision, adding that the victim would make detours in hallways and stairways to avoid crossing paths with the students who targeted her.

"At times, she pretends to be sick to avoid showing up to class. [People] yell names at her, they throw her books to the ground," he wrote.

"These actions and words are repeated and foster a feeling of oppression and distress."

On Nov. 6, 2017, the bullying reached a peak, according to the decision.

The judge wrote that a student sent text messages to the girl to tell her that "she will hit her tomorrow, and that she'll take care of her."

Charles Contant/CBC
Charles Contant/CBC

Those warnings were posted to social media and other students became aware of the threats.

The next day, there was a public confrontation on the school's football field.

The victim was mocked "in front of everyone", the judge wrote. She was insulted, and told she was lucky to be on school grounds, otherwise she would have been hurt badly enough to need an ambulance.

Another student poured water on the girl's head, leaving her "completely drenched."

After the incident, the girl, who was in tears, and her mother met with the school's assistant principal.

The meeting lasted only 10 minutes. The assistant principal offered to transfer the student to another school.

According to the decision, no other options was presented.

Due to a lack of space, the transfer didn't go through and the student's parent ultimately decided to keep her at home and hire a private tutor — a move that ended up costing $14,400.

Lester B. Pearson School Board/Facebook
Lester B. Pearson School Board/Facebook

Board did not apply its anti-bullying policy, judge says

Since 2012, Quebec's Education Act requires school boards to have an anti-bullying policy.

When dealing with a bullying complaint, school administrators must tell parents what their options are based on the school's policy.

The Lester B. Pearson had anti-bullying policy at the time of the incident, but it was almost completely ignored, according to the judge's ruling.

"The school administration seriously failed in its obligations during the Nov. 7 meeting," the judge wrote.

"[At the time] this child is emotional, in tears, drenched from head to toe. If there is a moment where it's not appropriate to make a decision and to have [the family] fill out a school transfer form, it's this one."

In total, the judge ordered the school board to pay $29,400 to the student's parent. That includes a reimbursement of the private tutor fees and $15,000 in damages.

Judith Kelley, who was acclaimed as the school board's new chairperson last week, declined to comment on the specifics of the case, but told CBC News that administrators takes matters of violence, racism and bullying seriously.

"We are working on this through our task force on equity, diversity and inclusion," Kelley said.

"There are all kinds of ways that we can always improve, but at this point in time I would like to say that our schools are safe and secure places for our children and our families."

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